After two years of waiting, the Sons of Ben have achieved what they set out to do.
Around noon today at Philadelphia's City Hall, the name and colors of Major League Soccer's 16th team became official. Aptly named the Philadelphia Union, the real work now begins for the league's newest addition. The new team has much to do between now and March 2010, when they begin league play, but the ingredients of success are beginning to fall in place.
Expansion teams, no matter what league you are in, have a tall task before the first whistle. Things like getting to know coaches, teammates, and even the league itself make success elusive for most teams in their freshman season. T
here is still a long check list to sort through before worrying about success on the pitch.
The first step to that is well underway, as a brand new soccer specific stadium is under construction in Chester, Pennsylvania; a short drive outside the Philadelphia city limits.
The team hopes to sell out the 18,500 capacity stadium before play begins, and if today's support is any indication of things to come, then that shouldn't be a glaring concern.
Pieces of the front office have been slowly but surely coming together, as recently named President Tom Veit took the podium today. Last week he was joined by Carl Cherkin, Vice President of Communications. Both are now part of the team, charged with the task of building a new team in a new place.
Competition for attention will be tough, as the Union will try and attract new followers in an over saturated sports market. The Flyers, Phillies, Eagles, and 76ers all commandeer a large fan base and while the new Union won't be trying to steal fans from their ranks, press and media attention could be hard to come by.
Philadelphia can learn a lot from a place like Seattle, the 2009 newcomers who have taken the league by storm. The new team has averaged more than 29,000 fans in their first MLS season and have taken their city by storm. Tickets to Sounders' games are sold out through the end of June.
Success like that would no doubt please the Union's front office.
For the Sons of Ben, the supporters group who can take credit for bringing MLS to Philadelphia, the two year wait has now become just ten months until the first kick. The anticipation and fervor will reach new heights. A team will be built, and the fans will eagerly await the debut of their newly established Union.